The second round of the National Hockey League playoffs has begun, and much to the chagrin of their fans, it will not include the Edmonton Oilers, who were shockingly swept by the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 in the First Round.
Winnipeg will next meet the Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs, who play a decisive Game 7 on Monday (May 31) in a North Division series. Other Second Round match-ups include the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights in the West Division, Boston Bruins and New York Islanders in the East Division, and Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Central Division.
So what are the residents of Oil Country to do? Quit watching NHL hockey until next fall? Tune in begrudgingly? Or how about temporarily throwing their support behind one of the remaining teams?
The latter option can certainly make the next several weeks a lot more exciting, but any fan with even the slightest sense of loyalty needs a compelling reason to do. So with that in mind, here’s a guide to picking a team to cheer on, designed specifically for Oilers fans.
The Ex Factor
The second round features a handful of former Edmonton players, who hold a permanent place in the hearts of many in Oil Country. Fans might not care much for the ex-Oilers’ current teams but can at least be happy for their success.
At the top of the list is Islanders forward Jordan Eberle, who spent seven seasons in Edmonton (2010-11 to 2016-17), recording 165 goals and 217 assists in 507 games. Then there’s 2010 No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall, a veteran of six seasons with the Oilers (2010-11 to 2015-16) who has reached the second round for the first time in his career, as a winger with the Bruins. Pat Maroon, who played parts of three seasons (2015-16 to 2017-18) in Edmonton, is looking to win a second straight Cup with the defending champion Lightning, and one-time Oilers goalie (2014-15 to 2017-18) Laurent Brossoit is backing up Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck with the Jets.
Other ex-Oilers connections include Jets assistant coach Charlie Huddy, a five-time Stanley Cup champion blueliner over 11 seasons (1980-81 to 1990-91) in Edmonton, whose defensive systems played a huge role in Winnipeg sweeping the Oilers; and Edmonton product Jake DeBrusk of the Bruins, whose father Louie DeBrusk spent six seasons (1991-92 to 1996-97) in Edmonton and now provides analysis on Oilers broadcasts on Sportsnet.
We the North
For those hoping to see Lord Stanley’s mug come back to Canada for the first time since Montreal won it in 1993, it will come down to two options: Winnipeg or the winner of the Canadiens/Leafs series, and it really just depends on one’s philosophy: Pull for the Jets because the further they go, the better it makes the Oilers look; or root against the Jets, because they are responsible for Edmonton’s demise, and seeing them suffer the same fate would provide some vengeful sense of satisfaction.
Whichever team emerges will carry the North Division banner into the third round. It will be up to them to prove wrong all the naysayers that looked down upon as the division as being second rate, and that’s something that fans of all North teams can unite behind.
The Oilers have made seven trips to the Stanley Cup Final in franchise history and faced four different teams, three of which are still going strong in the 2021 playoffs: the Bruins, Hurricanes, and Islanders.
Boston most recently won the Cup in 2011 and has since reached the Final twice more, losing both times to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and the St. Louis Blues in 2019. On the other hand, the Isles haven’t reached the Final since losing to the Oilers in 1984. Seeing the Stanley Cup back in old Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, where Edmonton also played the Islanders in the 1983 Final, would certainly stir up fond memories for Oilers fans of a certain vintage. As for the ‘Canes, they’re trying to get back to the Final for the first time since beating Edmonton in Game 7 of the 2006 championship series. A Cup run for Carolina could be a sign the Oilers are due next.
Stick to the Schedule
Maybe some fans just want to follow a team that won’t disrupt their routine. They want to watch the game without having to eat dinner early or stay up late (give or take the occasional triple overtime). In that case, the Avalanche fit the bill. As the only remaining team in the same time zone as Edmonton, Mountain Daylight Time, Colorado is the most likely to have a schedule that aligns with Oilers fans’ viewing habits. And the Avs certainly provide entertainment worthy a prime-time slot: they were the league’s highest-scoring team in the regular season (3.52 goals per game) and averaged 5.0 goals-for in their dominant First Round sweep of the Blues.
After this year’s one-off alignment, the NHL will return to its traditional divisions in 2021-22, meaning the Oilers will be back in the Pacific Division with the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Seattle Kraken, Vancouver Canucks, and the Golden Knights. As the only one of those eight teams that’s still alive in the 2021 postseason, Vegas is the choice for Oilers fans who like the idea of Edmonton being part of a division that boasts championship pedigree. Besides, if it’s a sin to cheer for another team, it’s probably fitting that said team hails from Sin City.
So there it is, at least one reason to hop on the bandwagon for each of the remaining teams, some certainly more compelling than others. But Edmonton fans really don’t need a good reason. It’s not like this is going to be a long-term relationship. More like a spring fling that, if things go well, could turn into a summer crush. Just make sure to call it off before the Oilers are back in town next fall.
Who are you throwing your support behind? Let us know in the comments below!
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.